Sunday, January 27, 2013

Guess Who's Back?

So the NCRS doesn't have Doug around anymore, as he has become the company fleet manager.  (That's the vehicle fleet , not our warships.)  Doug and I used to joke that we each did the work of two men: Laurel and Hardy.  So with Doug gone, we knew we would need some help.  And as luck would have it, our 2011 College Intern Jeff answered the call and is our new NCRS Research Assisitant.  Jeff graduated from MSU last spring with a bachelor's degree in Crop and Soil Science, and had been working for an area mint farm.  But the temptation to work full time again at the NCRS was too good a deal to turn down.  So Jeff's first official day is tomorrow.  It will be great to have Jeff back as he is a good worker and already knows how we do things here.  (And he came back anyway...hmmm.)  Jeff stopped by the farm last Friday and posed for a pic with a happy Stephanie below.
With the expansion of the farm, Jeff will be involved in a number of different support tasks.  Initially he will be working with Phil and the shop crew getting equipment ready for the season, and then will be doing a lot of the planting of the production acres and field-sized test plots.  And probably a lot of other important stuff too.  Welcome back Jeff.  Now get to work!   

Saturday, January 26, 2013

In the NCRS Shop

So I haven't shown much of the shop lately...well let's fix that.  On Friday there were a variety of projects going on to get ready for the upcoming season.  Below Ron is welding up some sort of tanker loading platform for the Ashley plant.  (After taking this picture I'm just now able to see something besides spots.)
Phil had gotten parts to put together a liquid application assembly for a researcher that we are working with for the first time in 2013.  I hope to show it on their drill in the future.
Phil is impressed with the new sprayer that Tim B has built for the specialty crop tractor seen in the background.  It has a stainless steel tank and should be used a lot this coming season.  Hopefully they get the wheels back on the tractor by then.  (I'm impressed with Tim's work too.  It has already passed the leak test.)  Tim wears his "M" hat just to irritate me.
Robb is building a stand to hold the boom of the plot Hagie.  Here he is cutting some steel.  What will go on the Hagie when the boom is off?  Stay tuned.  I don't like to talk about future stuff until it is present stuff.
Every year it seems to take all winter to get the shop re-organized for the next season.  In the heat of the moment during the season, stuff doesn't necessarily get put back where it should be and gets stored on the floor or in the wrong place.  Dan has taken the monumental task of getting things put away.  You know how you are afraid to throw things away since maybe you will use it again someday in the future?  Well we finally got brave and pitched a bunch of things that were buried in dust.  It filled a big dumpster.  Dan is doing a great job.  Now we can ask him where things are.
We have finally gotten some snow...not a lot, but some.  Last week was really cold with lows below 0 and highs in single digits.  But how long will it last?  Still haven't had to plow snow off my drive, for the second straight year.  Here is a view of Farm 7 this morning.
Well next week I am off on a fertilizer mission.  Hope to report from the road.  But first a big announcement in a special blog post tomorrow.  (No, no one is leaving.  Quite the opposite.)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

High-Tech Farming...That's Us!

So you probably know that Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers is building a new office...building.  Within the new building will be an Ag Tech Centre which will demonstrate the history of crops and fertilizer all the way to the point of modern agriculture and all of the technology of from GMO to GPS.  Anyway, part of the exhibits in the centre will be some simulators of tractors and combines with all of the precision applications.  And by simulators, this isn't just watching a cartoon but something you can get in and feel like you're planting or harvesting.  One of the objectives of all this is to convey the science of food production to the non-agricultural public.  So yesterday Tim and Stephanie hosted some visitors from a company that is one of the developers of the centre.  The company is Zentx Media Group, a Michigan company.  (You can tell they are a media leader by them having both a Z and an X in their name.)    Here is Tim showing how the planter uses uses pumps, gps speed inputs and flow controls to apply the correct rate of Liquid fertilizer from a rate set on the control monitor in the cab.  (At least I would guess that is what he is explaining.  I wasn't there.  Stephanie sent me these pictures.)  Jim from the AgroLiquid office is there too because he is involved in the planning and development of the Ag Tech Centre. 
Here Tim is showing the control valves involved in pulling different rates of fertilizers from individual tanks on the Hagie plot sprayer and then applying them as a complete blend.  Now who could have imagined such a thing just a hundred years ago?                                                                                                              
One of the neatest things is using auto-steer in the tractor.  We were probably the only ones in the county pulling a planter outside on a very cold day in January.  (Those white spots are snow.) But Tim is probably showing how to set the GreenStar controls for the desired rate of fertilizer in the designated field, and then how to put the tractor on a planter track and go.  Then like all farmers, pull out a newspaper and read the sports page (or this wildly popular blog) till you get to the other end of the field.  They will probably leave that part out of the simulators though.
So with their heads full of high-techness from the NCRS, the Zentx guys went back to Freeland and got to work.  Hopefully all of you out there can make it to St. Johns someday when the new building is complete and take a tour of the Ag Tech Centre.  And then remember the leading role that the NCRS played in its development.   (What's that?  Oh, sorry....I mean Center.  This is St. Johns after all!)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Read the Label

 So it's been a little slow in the action department this week.  Now don't think we're just hanging around playing cards.  All us researcher types have been busy with research reports, equipment upgrades and other important stuff.  But I thought I would have a little mid-winter crops test.  (Well if you could call this winter.  It's been mostly snow-free so far here.)  I was looking at some pictures today and came across the one below taken last August 24.  It was of a field of Navy beans on Farm 7 where the West half was nice and green and the East half was yellow.  Now it is normal for Navy bean leaves to turn yellow as they reach maturity.  But not this early.  What could it be???  Different planting dates?  Different varieties?  Aliens? 

Well what it is, is herbicide carryover.  You see, the West half was sugarbeets the previous year, and the East half was corn that was sprayed with.....Lumax herbicide.  You see, Lumax has an 18 month rotation restriction for Navy Beans.  Lumax is a great product that we have used for years at the NCRS.  But we wanted to test the rotation restriction.  (Do you believe that?)  The West side yielded 23.1 cwt/A and the East yielded 15.9 cwt/A.  So those restrictions on rotation actually are worth following.  Hmmmm.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

LIQUID at the National No-Till Conference!

 So this past Wednesday was the first day of the National No-Till Conference in Indianapolis.  And as one of the sponsors of this fine event, the A-Team of Liquid-ites was sent to represent.  Below we see the Liquid booth with visitor Joel Armistead of Kentucky who stopped by.  You will remember Joel who was one of the stars along with cory and me on the wildly popular RFD Live TV show last April.  Next to Joel is Stephanie, Ashley, Jake and Galynn.  It was a busy week as there were over 1100 people who attended, a new record.  And probably most of them stopped by the booth at some point.  Later in the week SAM Jourdan and Agronomist Jay also came to the conference.  It lasted till noon Saturday.
The conference was at the Hyatt in downtown Indianapolis.  Here is a view of the booth from the 20th floor.  It's next to the arrow, which was helpful in directing people to our booth.  There were other vendors there as well who are supporters of no-till.
Here is Darrell Bruggink, editor of the No-Till Farmer magazine who puts on the conference.  This was the 21st one, and with that many attendees, it is a lot of work for all of the staff of the magazine and Lesiter Publications and its founder, Frank Lessiter who started this.  But there is a lot of good information to create such a draw.  There are presentations by a variety of no-till experts, round table farmer discussions, other no-till vendors plus the opportunity to network with other no-tillers from around the country.  Darrell is making a speaker introduction during one of the general sessions.
This would give an idea of the attendance here at the Friday lunch banquet.  There were also tables out in the hall.  But you could still see and hear.
One of the activities at that banquet is the awarding of the Responsible Nutrient Management Practitioner for 2013.  It is given by the Responsible Nutrient Management Foundation, of which Agro-Liquid is a sponsor, and serves to recognize innovative growers who practice and promote No-Till farming.  The recipients are selected by a panel of independent no-till experts who review applications and select three awardees.  One of the winners was our friend Joel Armistead, who is getting his plaque from Jim Peterson of the RNMF.  Congratulations Joel.
Joel, along with the other winners for 2013, John Niemeyer of Nebraska and Grant Troop of Pennsylvania, gave a panel presentation about the no-till practices that they employ on their farms, and what they've learned over the years.  It was a very good learning opportunity for everyone.
And I was fortunate to be asked to make a classroom presentation on Fertilizer Placement Options for No-Till and Strip Till.  You know how humble I am, so I was surprised by the turnout to listen to little ol' me, close to 200 even.  I reviewed some published research on fertilizer in the soil and placement and capped it off with some of the research from the North Central Research Station.  There seemed to be good interest as I didn't see too many walk out, and lots of questions at the end. 
Afterwards, Ashley and Stephanie had an in-depth discussion back at the booth on the highlights of my presentation.
So it was a good long week of No-Till.  I am anxious to put some of the ideas learned into practice at the NCRS.  I'll keep you posted.  But you may want to make plans to attend the 22nd conference next year in Springfield, IL.  Be There!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Going International.

 (So I think I have figured out my picture loading problem for now.  It seems I had to use a different web browser than Internet Explorer, which I have always used.  I don't understand it, but it works.)

So last Wednesday morning I made a trip over to our neighbor of Ontario for a farmer meeting at Forest Ag Service, in the town of Forest.  They are retailers of AgroLiquid, and had a very good turnout for a morning meeting on the day after New Year.  It went very well, in my opinion anyway.  After a nice lunch there and more farm talk, Scott from AgroSpray and I made our way South to Chatham for the night. 
So as regular readers know, one of my travel highlights is sampling local restaurants.  Scott took me to Mamma Maria's Ristorante, which is Italian for restaurant.  I ordered the Halibut, although I forget all of the Italian adjectives on the menu.  When the waiter brought it, I immediately gave them an A+ for presentation.  I especially liked the scallops on top, and the potatoes and vegetables underneath.  After several minutes of visual admiration, I took a bite and the taste matched the look.  So stop by next time you are hungry in Chatham, and tell them Gerardo sent you.
Now the next day was the Southwest Agricultural Conference at the campus of the University of Guelph Ridgetown campus.  I'm sorry to say that I was not familiar with this conference, but it was the 20th one.  There were over 1400 registrants for the two day event.  It featured presentations on a wide variety of agricultural cropping topics going on at the same time, so you had to pick.  Most were given several times though.  But there were presentations from University professors, extension folks and farmers from Ontario and the US.  I am usually amazed at how much Canadians know about the US and our agriculture, and ashamed at how little Americans know about Canada.   (I mean to say aboot Canada.)  Below we see Scott setting up the AgroSpray booth at the trade show.  Also from AgroSpray, but not in the picture, were Ron and Terry, and dealer Ashley.  It was a fun and educational time.
Here are a few snippets of information from the presentations I attended:
- High yielding crops have a certain microbe population in association, but not understood if this is due to the good crop, or if the good crop is partly due to the microbes.
- There is work with high-yielding vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and melons that are grown on grafted root stock.
- With the mild winters in the Great Lakes lately, there is concern over excessive water evaporation due to lack of ice cover.  Lake Huron and Erie are at record low level.
- Regarding N rate recommendations and yield, there is poor correlation any more with uncontrolled variables like weather.  But Ontario has a decent website ( for a yield calculator that they say is as good as anything for a start.  They have seen higher yields with less applied N.
- One of the guest speakers was Mr. Stephen Lewis, former UN ambassador and politician.  He is very well known for a long time in Canada, and now travels the world working on behalf of Aids and Poverty programs.  He, like so many, is saddened by the rate of poverty and hunger in the world when we can produce so much here.  He said there are over 2 Billion people in the world living on less than $2 a day, and 900 million are in extreme hunger.
- There are an average of 54 trips over the average alfalfa field in 5 years.
- In a drought year, No-Till corn had a lower yield than did conventional till corn, probably due to compaction (according to Purdue research in IN.)
- Corn following wheat had higher yield than corn following soybeans in drought according to IL research. 
- New drought tolerant corn (AquaMax) did not yield higher than other corn with higher than average drought score, but did transpire less water and silked longer (in Purdue research.)  They admitted they should have tested a lower drought score hybrid but said they didn't have enough research $.  (Huh?)
- It takes 500 lb of water to make 1 lb of corn.
- The guest speaker the next day was financial expert David Chilton, the author of the well known book "The Wealthy Barber".  It is the best selling book ever in Canada, and his latest follow-up is just out.  They gave out a copy.  But he is a very entertaining speaker, and laments how our society is living beyond our means and accumulating too much debt.  Just like countries.  The four most expensive words are (during a project): "While we're at it....".  He calls our situation "the granite countertop phenomenon."  But he's an optimist.
- There was an interesting presentation from an Iowa State professor on the latest in glyphosate research on soybeans.  Research now concludes that the "yellow flash" has nothing to do with manganese.  It is now shown to be from a breakdown metabolite called AMPA.  They applied AMPA and got the same symptom.  There is no decrease or shift in soil microbe populations. He said there is no proof to back up the glyphosate doomsday presentations going around by that retired Purdue plant pathologist that many have heard speak.
- One of the symptoms of glyphosate on susceptible plants may be increased disease, as the pathway affected produces defense compounds.  Ragweed treated with the fungicide Ridomil was not killed.  But this didn't work all the time with all weeds, but was pretty interesting.
So after that was over, I headed back to Michigan, crossing the Ambassador Bridge to Detroit.  It was a good trip.  I hope to attend that meeting again.  Thanks Canada.

Please stand by....

This is to let you know that I am having issues with this blog site.  Suddenly it won't let me load pictures like it used to.  It's not just me (for once) as Shaun has the same issue with the ACLF Projects blog.  So I don't work without pictures and will see what happens.  Sorry.  In the meantime, please view re-runs.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year!!!

So I'm a day late, but HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!  You have probably seen pictures on TV from Sydney, Australia because they are the first big city to have it be January 1.  Well this picture was from someone who was actually there, namely RSM Stuart (of Montana) who wanted to get a head start on the year.  (You can see that famous opera house in the lower left.)  Thanks, Stuart.
Well I had to run some business errands on New Year's Day Tuesday, and happened by the NCRS.  Here is what Farm 1 looks like as it rests up for spring.  Regular readers will know how I like to commemorate milestones.  I did a little math and did you know that 2013 will be the 20th season of research here?  (It's a good thing I have 20 fingers and toes. Don't know what I will do next year.)
Here is a picture of a plot of sweet corn on that same Farm 1 in the summer of 1994.  I remember it like it was yesterday, as the Liquid treatment on the right outyielded fertilizer X on the left.  I have some other pictures somewhere that show more plots.  Maybe I'll find them and share them later.  You can see that those same trees are still there, but older.
Well I am already on an important Fertilizer Mission today through the end of the week.  Enjoy the year.